DBT Skill of the Week: Mindfulness
What do you think of when you hear the word “mindfulness”? You might imagine someone sitting cross-legged and chanting “Om” to themselves. Or maybe you think of taking deep breaths and clearing your mind while soft piano music plays in the background. For most people, meditation is the first thing that comes to mind when they think about mindfulness, and while meditation is a great way to practice mindfulness, it’s not the only way!
Many people have the misconception that mindfulness means doing nothing – that you have to be sitting still with your eyes closed, resisting all your distracting thoughts and feelings, in order to practice mindfulness. But mindfulness is so much more! You can be mindful while doing anything, from eating or drinking a cup of coffee to taking a walk or even riding the subway. At its core, mindfulness is simply about awareness. You’re tuning into what’s going on around you or within you at the present moment, without judging or evaluating any of it.
One simple way to practice mindfulness is to enjoy a meal without any distractions. Most of us are always preoccupied even while we eat – we scroll through Instagram or Twitter as we robotically shove our salads into our mouths, we order takeout and enjoy it with a side of Netflix, or we grab the quickest food option we can find and eat at our desks as we continue replying to emails. But when was the last time you sat down to have a meal by yourself, without your phone, laptop, or TV? No music. No books. No distractions. Just you and your food.
Interested in trying it? Here are some guidelines for eating mindfully:
- Before you start eating, take a few moments to notice how your food looks and smells. You can also check in with your body and ask yourself how hungry you are.
- As you take a bite of your food, observe the flavors, textures, and temperature of the food. Chew slowly. Set your fork or spoon down in between bites and allow yourself to slow down.
- Notice if there are any differences from one bite to the next.
- Check in with yourself as you start to get full. See if you feel different from when you began eating.
If the idea of eating an entire meal without your phone intimidates you, start small! Challenge yourself to at least start your meal without any distractions, taking about five minutes to eat without your phone or computer. This can also be a practice that you build on over time, increasing the length of your distraction-free time as you become more comfortable with this.
Eating is just one of many ways to incorporate mindfulness into your life. You can bring mindfulness into so many different aspects of your life, and as you continue this practice, you’ll become more present to your life and experience life as it really is.
Mindfulness is one of the core skills that clients learn in DBT skills groups, along with interpersonal effectiveness and emotion regulation. For more information about our DBT groups, click here or contact us at 212-546-9200.